Jeffrey Wilens is so outraged that he filed a class action suit against RealNetworks for allegedly violating his and other consumers' privacy. The attorney claims in his suit (in the US) that the company's RealJukebox software secretly recorded the titles of music CDs and MP3 tracks he played on his PC, then sent the data back to RealNetworks - creating a detailed profile of Wilens' musical tastes.
"I don't accept the concept that there is no privacy on the Internet," Wilens says. "I think rogue companies need to learn to modify their behaviour."
RealNetworks flatly denies Wilens' charges. "Contrary to media reports, we have never monitored user behaviour or listening habits," says Keela Robison, product manager for the company. However, she admits that RealJukebox did create a unique identification number for each user and stored the numbers in the same database that holds user names and e-mail addresses. Theoretically, these numbers could track where people go on the Web. The company quickly released a patch that disabled the software's ability to issue the IDs, but that wasn't enough to satisfy Wilens and others, who had filed a total of a dozen suits against RealNetworks at press time.
Meanwhile, six other lawsuits in the US are pending against Internet advertising network DoubleClick for creating online profiles of consumers. Three similar suits have been filed against Alexa, an Amazon subsidiary. With few other avenues of recourse at their disposal, users have taken to the courts to fight for their right to privacy. But the battle has just begun.
A not-so-private little war
Profiles in commerce
Are you being followed?
Policies are no insurance
Technology to the rescue?
Too much, too soon
Should you trust Truste?